I cracked my favorite mug this morning (like she cracked my heart, I thought, when she tried to leave). Fiddling with the foamer of my espresso machine, trying to remove the “wand” from the “sleeve,” I pulled too hard and when it jarred loose, I sent my favorite mug over the counter’s edge. It bounced twice on the tile floor but did not break. I picked up the mug and ran my finger along the crack. The glazed surface was still smooth. The mug still held my coffee. (Like my heart still beat, I thought.) (Or, like her skull, when I stopped her cold, banging her head on the bathroom door’s edge, fractured, yet still holds blood when I fill it like a bowl with the heat of all those others. When I stopped her cold, it was enough to make her heart brim over and her eyes spiderweb with broken veins.) Despite the brokenness of things, somehow some things endure.
They hold on, like memories of trauma—like when she said, “I don’t love you anymore, I did but I don’t – it’s nothing we can change, just a clean break we never noticed, a fissure that widened. Try to move on. I hope you do.” But I couldn’t move on because…things endure; memory stains; love claws inside us and perches like a carrion bird over the pitiful remains of itself; it feeds on its own putrescence.
There’s a crack in the foundation of our house, a seam imperfectly braced with bolts and wooden beams, but the house still stands. I spot the crevice when I step down into the basement, reach out, blind, catch the cord, and light the bare bulb hanging from the ceiling. I run my hand along the break’s edge before I open the door into the room where it happens. The young woman – Meghan, I think – makes a stifled noise when the door creaks open and light slants in.
She smells like fear – which means she smells like shit, of course. It’s so unfortunate nothing can remain what it should. Not to get too philosophical but it’s why the devil fell – he wanted perfection for us but God in His wisdom wanted shit, broken relationships, and death. I eat the apple in that perfect first moment when I begin to siphon their blood into her upturned skull and they watch me, tear stained, as I drink them, steaming. Eventually, like children too sleepy to watch the late night horror show, they drift away with a sigh. The puppet strings break and they finally relax. I release them from our imperfections.
When I skinned her and bleached her bones, I thought my darling’s skull would be a broken mess, useless. Imagine my exultation at finding it cracked, yet intact. It stares at us now, upside down on an old pillow in the corner of the room. I am just going to retrieve it when there is a knock at the front.
Must time be always fractured? But it wouldn’t do to ignore the summons; it would eat its way into my pleasure. I excuse myself from Meghan and head up the creaking stairs. I crack the door to find a young woman, police but not fully. No gun, just a radio, a stun gun, and cuffs. She shows me Meghan’s picture; it is not a good likeness; she asks if I’ve seen her. I crack a smile. I crack a joke.
“It could be you, the picture,” I say, “the likeness is so exact.”
She waits stone-faced. But she does not bother me.
“The case is cracked wide open,” I say.
She raises one eyebrow but does not speak. Does she expect my calm exterior to break? Will I admit everything now? I laugh too loud and shut the door but she begins knocking, then banging. The hinges squeak as she lays into it. Can she break in?
The stairs creak. I see the door to the room open a slit. Had I not closed it? Could I have made that mistake? She’s escaped, I think, before I even open the door. Then the world shakes and rumbles, an earthquake breaking open every cleft, casting all down. I tumble into the wall. The world falls through itself into nothing and despair. Then she is on me—the young police woman; she pins my arms behind my back. But I am stronger and throw her off; she loses her hat. It rolls aside. I turn to grab her skull and pull it out of her head. She holds a telescoped metal rod out at her side, the other hand out, palm flat. She’s saying something in a calm voice. I’m not listening. I lunge. She takes out my knee and I fall, crumpling. I get ready to gather myself for another rush. But the steps creak; more police are on me. The police woman moves past and opens the door and there she is – still whole – where I had tied her. My darling! She comes out into the room. They are leading her by. She is crying. I’m crying. I assure her she’s safe now. But she isn’t.
I tell her, shh, I’ll keep you safe, until some cop splits my lip, pushing my face into the dirt.
You’ll find them all in there, I tell the angry young man, soothing him. He must be calm here, reverent, in the broken dark. I have kept them safe, bones neatly arranged to last. Waiting flesh again at the end of days. Nothing lost, I assure him, nothing forgotten. But I did forget to close the door, I realize. Then light cracks behind my eyes and darkness grinds my memoires to nothing.
I let everything go like a prayer to the devil where he lies, throned at the mouth of hell, drinking from her upturned skull until he laughs when it splits, red smearing though its slits, dripping from its bottommost curve, and I shatter and go on shattering and never stop breaking forever.
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